Despite St Kilda’s first finals victory in a decade, the main focus of the match on Monday night was what it meant for their opponents the Western Bulldogs. As disrespectful as that might have been, it paled into insignificance to Kane Cornes’ assertion that Richmond should have requested the Semi Final against the Saints be played at the Adelaide Oval so as to better prepare them for their Preliminary Final against Port Adelaide.
How did Port Adelaide let Dougal Howard go?
Dougal Howard came up in conversation on Footy Classified in the shows appraisal of Port Adelaide’s Qualifying Final victory over Geelong. While Tom Hawkins finished the game goalless, he did have six shots at goal which had Matthew Lloyd questioning why they let Howard walkout in the off-season.
“We touched on Dougal Howard and I think it was a big error [letting him leave],” Lloyd said. “I didn’t know much about Dougal Howard but I know how highly you [Kane Cornes] thought of him. It’s [Key Defenders] the big worry for me moving on to Prelim and Grand Final. Hawkins wouldn’t have been able to do that on the weekend if Howard was playing for Port Adelaide. I just wonder how they came to this decision to let this man go,” he said.
“It was a bizarre decision for me and that’s the hesitation I have for them as well,” Cornes replied. “They’ve got a good young player who they like in Mitch Georgiades. But right now, 22 years old, captained the side last year Dougal Howard [would seem a much better option]. They didn’t believe he could play in defence, they wanted to turn him into a forward. Bizarre,” he said.
“There was a dispute of his position wasn’t there and Dougal Howard was adamant he wasn’t going to play up forward,” Caroline Wilson added.
“Bizarre. Great closing speed, one of the best spoilers in the game and can intercept mark. The Saints have got a ripper,” Cornes concluded.
Young Gun Stands Tall.
Max King set the Elimination Final on fire in the first half on Saturday night. The young Saint clutched a number of contested marks and kicked two goals in a performance that belied the fact he is just 20 years old. Having coached him at schoolboy level, there was no surprise that Matthew Lloyd was asked about the performance.
“You must have been proud of your old Hailebury charge, Max King?” Wilson asked Lloyd.
“Yeah, I think the height, and he is only going to get better and better. So look out once he gets a few pre-seasons under his belt,” a grinning Lloyd replied.
AFL 360 did not spend much time on the Saints efforts on the weekend but Gerard Whateley did speak of the emotions provoked by the afternoon’s events.
“St Kilda the emotional roller coaster that was this as Saturday went on. So they looked home at three-quarter time. They invited the comeback in the last quarter and it was heart attack material,” he told Mark Robinson. “Then as soon as the siren sounds, the first shot is just this inexplainable moment where Paddy Ryder is in tears on the bench. So in that surge that you should be getting, the full burst of victory having lived through as it got tighter and tighter, and tighter, I did feel for Saints fans because it was immediately mitigated from this moment of raw celebration to ‘what on earth is happening here?’ ‘The bloke that just won us this final’, and he won them the final,”
“Best a field,” Robinson interjected.
“Oh my goodness and you just knew he was out,” Whateley lamented.
Nick Riewoldt spoke of similar emotions on On The Couch.
They made me sweat. I was with these two [Gary Lyon and Jonathan Brown as part of Fox Footy’s broadcast team] watching the last 15 minutes. Brett Ratten’s got the absolute best out of this group, it hasn’t taken him long, but you can see it in the way the guys the play, the way they interact with each and you can see it in the way they celebrated. It’s not a nice feeling having no control, sitting, watching your team play.
How Do You Replace Ryder?
A believer in the Saints two-ruck setup, Riewoldt believed a different approach would be necessary now that Ryder was unavailable.
“I don’t think you can [replace him] based on what Paddy Ryder has been able to dish up,” Riewoldt said on On The Couch. “I was critical at the start of the year because I thought it would deprive Rowan Marshall of the ability to grow into a Max Gawn or Brodie Grundy type but he has just been incredible.”
“He played a hell of a game? Amazing. Full credit to Paddy, I mean its a sad tale that he wont be able to back up next week and the Saints will miss him too. I think this was one area they could really get a hold of Richmond.”
“Dominant early, released a few players. Yeah he was. He gave the mids an opportunity to be really proactive. He got back he supported the defence, he marked the footy, pushed forward and converted, it was a really complete ruck performance.”
As big a hole as Ryder leaves, Riewoldt has full confidence in Rowan Marshall performing in his absence.
“Marshall can ruck by himself, I don’t think that’s an issue,” Riewoldt said.
“Marshall hasn’t reached the heights of last year because he has split the duties with Paddy Ryder so it’s hard to have as big an impact but he is absolutely capable of doing that [rucking all game against Toby Nankervis] himself.”
Gary Lyon agreed.
“We’ve got to talk about it because it has a big bearing but they wont be. They have to move on really quickly and back Marshall in to have a big game because they did everything else beautifully,” he said.
Football is a Great Leveller.
“It’s a cliche to say it soured the result,” Robinson said of Ryder’s injury on AFL 360. “Football is a great leveller. You get too far ahead, it will pull you back. ‘Don’t be a smart arse’. Like Richmond, in my opinion like Richmond. You feel affronted Richmond, pull yourselves back. So they get off the ground, they’re hugging and then suddenly their teammate is in tears, ‘what’s going on?’ That really brings them back, to a heightened level but not that euphoric level. It’s a real shame.”
“That last quarter, you said it was a nail biter, did you think they were going to hang on? Or did you think the Dogs were going to overrun them? I thought they were going to overrun them,” Robinson asked.
“I thought the whole way through they were going to hang on and then right at the end you started to go ‘oh my god if they get run over here, the summer of lament that they will have for the way they approached the last quarter,” Whateley responded. “Urgh, they wouldn’t have been able to live with themselves. Such conservatism from the first moment.”
The Hits Keep Coming.
Whateley and Robinson discussed Ben Long’s suspension for his bump on the Bulldogs Jack Macrae.
“Then it gets progressively worse for them. On Sunday, Ben Long gets cited. That tribunal hearing has just concluded and Ben Long has been unsuccessful. His one-week suspension stands,” he announced.
“Where you surprised at that?” Robinson asked.
“No. In the moment that this happened, we were calling this game, Nick Dal Santo said he was going to miss the Semi Final. This belongs in a different era, coming off the square like that, and if you take your chance and you make high contact you get suspended. The wave of inflation that went through these penalties was actually centred on Ben Long earlier in the year. So it makes nothing but sense that it is the way it is. The AFL’s case was that he came off the line, he gathered speed, the force was considerable and the consequences were in the lap of the gods and the jury found that Macrae’s head snapped back and so the suspension stands,” Whateley said.
“So Long’s gone, Ryder’s gone, Battle will come back,” Robinson thought out loud.
Riewoldt wasn’t as confident that Battle would return. “They’d love to get Battle into that side [as a replacement for Jake Carlise], if he’s available. I don’t know [if he’ll be available] I think it’s going to be touch and go that one but he is one player for team balance they would love to get in,” he said.
Family Comes First
Jake Carlisle’s unavailability for the Semi Final was a subject of discussion on AFL 360. Despite claiming to have no feeling either way on the subject, Mark Robinson had a lot to say from the dinosaur viewpoint that the defender should have stayed in Queensland.
“I’ve got no decision but the discussion point around it really intrigues me,” Robinson said. “I’m not going to name people but I’ve spoken to players who have said ‘third kid? No, I’m playing’. Absolutely I’ve spoken to players saying that. I’ve spoken to others who have said ‘how selfish are you, she’s having your baby and you want to play a game of football?’ So it’s not my decision.”
“You belong to your family before you belong to your profession. It doesn’t matter if you are a footballer or whatever you are, you belong to your family first,” Whateley responded but it did little to stop Robinson prosecuting the case otherwise.
“Yep, Robinson said despite obviously feeling otherwise. “No doubt but the other angle is that you are playing in a final and your committed to a football club and this is your livelihood, and Jake Carlisle you may not play again. But if Jake Carlisle plays on the weekend and is best afield and the Saints win and they win the next week and they win the premiership and he’s a premiership hero. There’s just so many discussion points. Don’t anybody abuse but I think I just like hearing all the angles,” he said trying to maintain the facade that he was merely playing devil’s advocate.
How The Final Was Won.
Nick Riewoldt praised Brett Ratten’s ability to get the most out of the group in 2020.
“The weapons. That’s what he has unlocked within this group I think, the speed, the ball use, the small forwards and the two rucks have been huge for the Saints. I was a critic at the start of the year,” he said.
Gary Lyon was also full of praise. “Their scoring from back half was fantastic, their run, their carry, this was a whole club win,” he enthused. “Identifying the talent, going after it way back when, getting it into the side and it culminated on the weekend.”
Lyon used the Saints first goal to illustrate his point. “You just see that they are a hard-running team, playing against a side that like a ground ball too, but once they went they went really hard. I think in the end they scored 32 points from their back half which is as good as they’ve done for a long time. At three-quarter time they were going from d50 to f50 41% of the time and this happens. The hard-running, the contests, the targets in King, that was Geary on Daniel that worked beautifully as well,” he said.
Riewoldt agreed and praised Brett Ratten’s coaching. “That was the other thing they did right. I think there was a real simplicity to Brett Ratten’s coaching as well. Go after the talent of the opposition. They did it earlier in the year, they went after Johannisen and Bontempelli, squared them away and won the game. [On Saturday] They did it again with Geary on Daniel, tested him, got him into a position where he wasn’t comfortable. And Seb Ross, who we were all critical of his performance the other week against [Tim] Kelly, he went to Bontempelli and did a pretty good job.”
Jonathon Brown was excited by the Saints power in the air. “They exposed the Bulldogs lack of height, 21 contested marks which is the most by any team this year, they kicked the ball in the air and took the marks,” he said.
Despite this, Gerard Healy was dismissive of the Saints chances against Richmond in the Semi Final. After the panel spoke briefly of their view that the Collingwood v Geelong game would be tight, Healy was blunt in his pre-game view of St Kilda v Richmond. “I think everyone’s going to be tipping the Tigers,” he said.